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  • My Solar-Powered Flashlight and My Wind-Powered Fan

    Posted by Shannon Love on June 29th, 2009 (All posts by )

    While reading this story about changes in the water rights laws of western states, [h/t Instapundit] this bit at the end caught my eye.

    Ms. Fitzgerald, an associate professor of sociology at Fort Lewis College in Durango, still lives the unwired life with her own family now, growing most of her own food and drinking and bathing in filtered rainwater.
     
    Rain dependency has its ups and downs, Ms. Fitzgerald said. Her home is also completely solar-powered, which means that the pumps to push water from the rain tanks are solar-powered, too. A cloudy, rainy spring this year was good for tanks, bad for pumps.

    *Sigh* Somebody actually designed a solar powered system to pump water out of a rain filled system. Somebody voted for Obama. 

    The entire point of energy systems is to shift work in time and space to when and where we need it. Weather-dependent energy sources can’t shift work in time and space. Instead, the work happens when and where the weather wants it to happen. Weather-dependent energy systems cannot perform this most basic task of shifting work and that is why they are worthless for any large-scale use. 

    I mean, if weather-dependent power can’t meet the needs of a hippy college professor, why do people think we can run factories, transportation and hospitals with it? 

    [By the way, the water rights laws of the American West might seem bizarre but they do make sense in the context of the region’s historical development.]

     

    9 Responses to “My Solar-Powered Flashlight and My Wind-Powered Fan”

    1. david foster Says:

      Why does she need to *filter* rainwater? Isn’t it basically distilled water?

    2. Robert Schwartz Says:

      “Ms. Fitzgerald, an associate professor of sociology”

      Now we understand the problem.

    3. rignerd Says:

      Rain water is distilled. Unfortunately it is collected off the roof and there it gets contaminated with bird poop and other things that you don’t want to bathe in much less drink.

      The concept isn’t as bad as this implementation makes it seem. If there is enough excess capacity to pump the water with batteries or a generator to meet the short term needs, living off the grid isn’t impossible. Not that I want to do it, I work hard to live the easy life.

      Everybody who believes in man made global warming caused by CO2 should put their money where their mouth is and stop exhaling.

    4. Anonymous Says:

      Water Rights reminds me of a fellow I used to work with who was a kid back in WWII growing a victory garden. His father was a professor of engineering at the University of Utah and was away much of the time doing war work. Well, the victory garden didn’t do well because a neighboring farmer kept stealing the irrigation water. So one day this fellow’s dad came home, heard his son’s complaints about the farmer, and went out with him to “discuss” matters with the neighbor. Who essentially told them to piss off. So this guy’s dad picked up a shovel and knocked the farmer into the irrigation ditch. It made a big impression on my co-worker, he liked to say that more people in the west were killed over water than ever died fighting over gold.

    5. Dan from Madison Says:

      Ringnerd – “Not that I want to do it, I work hard to live the easy life.” GREAT quote.

    6. Brian Dunbar Says:

      I mean, if weather-dependent power can’t meet the needs of a hippy college professor, why do people think we can run factories, transportation and hospitals with it?

      We’re just not trying hard enough.

    7. RG Says:

      Don’t mock the solar powered flashlight. I have one of those and it works great!

    8. Shannon Love Says:

      RG,

      Don’t mock the solar powered flashlight. I have one of those and it works great!

      The flashlight isn’t actually solar powered. It is the battery that powers the flashlight. It is the battery that shifts the work in time and space to provide illumination where and when you need it. A battery can be charged from many different sources.

      More importantly, it is easy to see that this flashlight will only prove useful under fair conditions. First it requires 6 hours of exposure to sunlight (and I’m betting that’s based on a minimal threshold of solar input) to provide 8 hours of light. This means that you have to have environmental conditions that will allow you to use the flashlight. By contrast, a weather-independent flashlight can work in any environmental conditions that a human could carry it into. A crank powered flashlight (really a muscle powered flashlight) can produce power on demand indefinitely at the bottom of a coal mine.

      You won’t find somebody who has to use a flashlight continuously on a daily basis e.g. a building inspector using one. Neither will emergency personnel or people who work in dangerous environments. The solar flashlight is like all weather-dependent technology. It’s nifty but not really practical for serious work.

    9. mishu Says:

      We’re just not trying hard enough.

      Everybody chant, “Yes we can”.